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Endurance athletes and strength athletes are about as far apart on the fitness spectrum as you can get in many aspects. Generally they will never cross paths, as endurance athletes (runners, cyclists,triathletes) tend to spend the majority of their time in the great outdoors, soaking in the weather and moving constantly to get their heart pounding. Strength athletes more often than not spend hours in the gym lifting heavy things to get build aesthetics, size, strength & power. The closest they come to doing cardio in walking the barbell back from the squat rack. While the first 2 objectives of strength athletes will serve little purpose to the endurance athlete, the second 2 - STRENGTH & POWER should be of particular interest as when implemented correctly can be an absolute game changer for your endurance performance.

There have been numerous studies that have found that a structured strength program will have multi faceted benefit for endurance athletes. With some of the key areas of improvement being.

  • Improved exercise economy
  • Improved maximal speed
  • Improved lactate threshold
  • Decreased injury risk
  • Increased neuromuscular efficiency

THIS ALL SOUNDS FANTASTIC BUT HOW DOES THIS TRANSLATE TO INCREASED PERFORMANCE?

Concurrent endurance and heavy strength training can increase you running speed and power output at VO2max or the time to exhaustion at maximal running speed or cycling power output (Ronnestad & Mujika, 2014). So not only will strength training help you to increase the maximal pace you can run or cycle at. It will also aid in increasing the amount of time you can spend at those higher intensities = move faster for longer.

There are various reason why this will occur:

Strength training has a strong association to increasing neuromuscular co-ordination (Salehzadeh, 2015). With every step you take your brain has to send the signal to your muscles to contract & move your limbs. Strength training can be responsible for improving the “reaction time” and specificity of these signals resulting in more efficient movement.

Studies have also suggested a faster rate of force development (speed) as result of undertaking a strength training protocol (Vikmoen, 2017). This will enable the endurance athletes to be able to move at faster at given intensities and is perfect for kicking things up a gear in the race to the finish line.

These improvements also result in a improved energy efficiency during exercise. So your body will expend less energy in order move at the same pace. This becomes especially important the longer the distance of your event or training.

Research indicates that 2 x strength session per week facing on maximal force production performed concurrently with your endurance training program is sufficient to provide the benefits associated with strength training. (Berryman, et al 2018). Weight gain can also be an area of concern for many endurance athletes when performing strength training. However given the low recommended volume of strength work in combination with a high volume of endurance training you will still be undertaking. This will not create the right conditions to generate significant mass gain through strength training protocols. Also with the correct programming sets & repetitions you can make the strength program specific to increasing strength without building muscle mass.

To help you get started we have put together a basic 2 day a week strength training program for endurance athletes, if you have any questions on how to get started be sure to get in touch.

Day 1 - Strength

Day 2 - Strength / Power

General Warm Up

5 Minute Sled Walk @ 30% Bodyweight (BW)

Mobility (Dynamic)

General Warm Up

5 Minute Sled Walk @ 30% Bodyweight

Mobility (Dynamic)

Specific Warm Up

Goblet Squat 2 x 10 @ 8-12kg

Glute Bridge 2 x 15 (BW)

Single Leg Deadlift 3 x 5 (BW)

Band Pull Apart 3 x 12

Specific Warm Up

Kettlebell RDL 3 x 10

Bulgarian Split Squat 3 x 5

Band / Cable Hip Extension 3 x 12

Band Row 3 x 20

Pull Up 2 x 3/5

Main Workout

Box Squat 5 x 3 @80% (RPE 8/10)

Inverted Row 5 x 10 @ BW

Main Workout

Rack Pull 5 x 6 @70% (Focus on Speed)

Box Jump 5 x 3

Supplemental 1

Kettlebell Swing  3 x 20

Sled Push 3 x 15m @ 1-1.5 x BW

Push Up 3 x 10

Supplemental 1

Med Ball Throw 4 x 5 @ 5-8kg (for max dist)

DB S/A Push Press 4 x 8 @ 8-15kg

Supplemental 2

Turkish Get Up x 20 @ 8-12kg

Supplemental 2

S/A Plank Row  3 x 8

Hanging Leg Raise 3 x 5

Hollow Rock 3 x 30 sec

Cool Down

Foam Roll & Stretch

Cool Down

Foam Roll & Stretch

 

** This program is intended as a guide only. You may need an individualised program for a more specific program to cater for your needs. For help with these exercises head to our YouTube channel for some demonstration videos**

 

 

References
Berryman N, Mujika I, Arvisais D, Roubeix M, Binet C and Bosquet L. Strength Training for Middle- and Long-Distance Performance: A Meta-Analysis, International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 13, 1, (57) 2018

Salehzadeh K & Ghorbanzadeh B. Effects of Strength Training on Neuromuscular Coordination in Male Pool Players. Journal of Applied Environmental and Biological Sciences. 5. 1-1. 2015

Vikmoen O, Rønnestad BR, Ellefsen S, Raastad T. Heavy strength training improves running and cycling performance following prolonged submaximal work in well‐trained female athletes. Physiological Reports. 5(5) 2017

This exercise is great to add into your training as a substitute for glute bridges/hip extensions at times where you may be unable to lay on your back or place pressure on your shoulders.

It is also a great tool to help teach correct cues and activation for the glute bridge. Often athletes can rely too heavily on quad and lower back contraction to drive the hip bridge. Switching to the kneeling position helps to teach the drive through the hips.

The added pulling from the band will also force you to engage the glute muscles to maintain an upright position

We love to implement this exercise as a great way to not only teach people how to activate their glutes but also as a great way to rehab/prehab form hamstring injury. Read More
The knee/leg extension isn’t something you see a lot of in the functional training space. 

However, if there is a weakness in your quads it can be a great way to build up the strength required to assist your main lifts. Read More
The pull through is a great exercise for developing glute and hamstring strength. It’s allows you to perform a hinging movement with the load anchor to the rear which makes it highly specific to the movement patterns of running, jumping and cycling. Read More

The reverse hyper extension is an amazing addition to any lower body strength program. 

The dynamic movement targets the glutes, hamstrings and lower back so is perfect as a supplemental exercise to improve your deadlift & squats.

It can also be a great as an injury prevention tool for sport specific training. As working to control the eccentric portion of the movement places similar emphasis on the body to deceleration which can be the cause of many injuries in athletes particularly those in sports requiring frequent change of direction.

Make sure your hips are in the crease of the pad, engage your lats and abs as you hold the handles.

Squeeze through your glutes as you extend up & control the load on the way down, but keep the movement fluent.